Train at Night in the Desert

Georgia O’Keefe, 1916

 

Georgia, it’s been one hundred years

since you stood in the dark Texas dawn

and marveled at the multicolored haze

clouding toward you down the track.

You thought the rest of your life

would unspool from Canyon, Texas.

You wrote Alfred Stieglitz that you saw

the train, thought of him, and blazed.

You had never even been to New Mexico.

I think of you, so young out on the stark

gray sand, the oncoming train glittering

alive and black, its light fixed upon you

like a sun, like an eye

seeing what no one else can see.

 

Amie Sharp

Amie Sharp’s poems have appeared in Atticus Review, Badlands, the Bellevue Literary Review, New Plains Review, and Tar River Poetry, among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and her manuscript Flare was a semifinalist for the Crab Orchard First Book Award. She lives in Colorado.

Babelogue

Mary had the perfect imperfection, a small space in between her two front teeth, like Madonna or Lauren Hutton.  It was just what I needed, a flaw, to help me focus every fear I had of feeling happy.  Happy felt like another solar system – a curious and desired destination, I suppose, and yet unwelcome.  Nothing good could come of wanting something that could be taken away because it always was.  My nervous system still clawed its way through every day since two men had broken into my apartment four years prior and attacked me.  Most days, I thought I was really a ghost observing the life I was meant to have if only they had climbed through a different window that night.

With Mary, I smiled easily, told funny stories, and serenaded her with Billie Holiday songs lying naked in bed. My voice copied sultry well enough. I was not at ease, but hid it well. Her optimism was deep enough to hold us both.

So there sat that small space.  I suppose I could see the beautiful smile that held it.  Or, I could see a young girl, one of eleven children whose father died when she was a teenager and left her mother impoverished and unprepared. Dentistry was out of the question.  I could see the beauty of that space and all that held it in a long life of challenge or I could just see the space. If I focused hard enough on it, I might be safe keeping company with the flaw and believed it could help me flee if I needed to.

Early on, Mary was fifteen minutes late for a date with me and I gave her a stern lecture on punctuality.  Another time, she had two beers at dinner, not one but two.  Since I didn’t drink and my step father drank too much, I decided she must be an alcoholic and I almost broke up with her on the spot.

She teased!  She forgot people’s names!  She didn’t always get me!

I loved and needed that imperfection. I needed every single thing about Mary that I could put in my pocket to help me escape from the joy/loss possibility that is a real relationship.   We moved in together, bought a house, made financial decisions about each of our graduate programs and then had kids.  As the years went on, and I allowed each happiness in, I took every carefully collected imperfection and held them in my hand like a snow globe, shaking it about wildly, the flaws overtaking the scene for but a moment and then settling down harmless.

When Mary was in her forties, she decided to close up the space by wearing invisible braces for a year.  She said she was tired of wearing her childhood poverty on her face.  By then, I didn’t worry what I would do without it. It had served us both rather well in a life we built together in spite of the odds.

Michelle Bowdler

Michelle Bowdler has been published in the New York Times and has two upcoming essays in a book entitled: We Rise to Resist: Voices from a New Era in Women’s Political Action (McFarland 2018). Her essay entitled Eventually, You Tell Your Kids (Left Hooks Literary Journal) was just nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The Rumpus recently published her poem A Word With You as part of their series Enough! on sexual assault and rape culture. Michelle is a 2017 Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Award for Non-Fiction, will be a Fellow at Ragdale this winter and is a Boston GrubStreet Incubator alum. (https://michelle-bowdler.com/)

Karla Linn Merrifield

Mind Double

 

DNA is my totem pole, I shall not want.

It leadeth me to lie down amid terrapins at low tide:

It leadeth me beside coiled anacondas.

It restoreth my limbic brain:

It leadeth me on the tao of evolution for no one’s sake.

 

Yea, though I walk through the herpetological vestiges

of primal fear, I will fear no amphibian or reptile,

for thou, deoxyribonucleic acid, are within me.

The helices of thy spiral of immanence guide me.

Thou preparest a swampscape in the presence

of my kindred spirits; thou anointest my mind

with imagery; imagination runneth over.

 

Surely turtles and tortoises shall follow me all

the dreams of human life, and I will dwell

in the burrow of oroboros forever.

 

Six Mile Cypress Slough après Howard Hodgkin

 

This is a poem in black and white

like a black-and-white warbler

in the black-and-white of midday

sun spots and spotting shadows

of wax myrtle sweet bay red maple

bald cypress in green stillness

 

this is a poem turning the greens

of spring in the slough into strap-fern

green green of alligator flag green of water

hyacinth in algae-green water swamp-lettuce

green green of my envy for the green camouflage

of an orb-weaver’s web empty of spider and prey

 

this poem swerves into the red

eye of ibis red eye of black-crowned

night heron red in the voice of cardinals

red on the marginal scutes and carapace

of turtles heating up with the day

red my blood red my blood red blood

 

                        for Colleen North

 

 

Karla Linn Merrifield 

Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 600+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 12 books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye (based in Vancouver, BC), a member of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), the Florida State Poetry Society, and The Author’s Guild. She is currently at work on three manuscripts and seeking a home for The Comfort of Commas, a quirky chapbook that pays tribute to punctuation. Visit her woefully outdated, soon-to-be-resurrected blog, Vagabond Poet, at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com.